Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bonner residents share stories of friends, relatives in Japan after natural disasters

March 17, 2011

Don Slone’s wife awoke him at 1:30 a.m. Friday with news of the massive earthquake that had just hit Japan.

Slone, city planner for Bonner Springs, and his wife had just returned from the country on Feb. 27 after visiting their daughter, Rachael Slone, for the birth of their granddaughter, Olivia Rae.

“It’s unbelievable, just watching (the television) last Friday,” Slone said, explaining the couple was anxious until they received an e-mail from Rachael at 3:30 a.m. She was lucky to get the message out thanks to a Japanese cell phone, because power was out at her home.

While Rachael is stationed at a Navy base south of the epicenter of the quake, Don Slone said his daughter still was feeling the effects of the natural disasters. In the earthquake and the tsunami that followed, nearly 13,000 people are dead or missing and several hundred thousand have been left homeless.

Rachael has been stationed in Yokosuka, on Japan’s coast just south of Tokyo and Yokohama, for the past four years. The quake’s epicenter was about 240 miles north of Tokyo.

She was at the base when the earthquake hit, and she told her father that her usual five-minute commute home after the quake took two-and-a-half hours.

Slone said those in and around the base have continued to feel the effects, according to Rachael.

“Fuel is a problem; food is a problem,” he said. “They’ve had over 250 aftershocks and they’re all pretty high magnitude.”

Main highways have been shut down until they are inspected, since the country has so many elevated highways, Slone said.

Power tends to be out at least four hours each day, and there are now concerns of radiation leaking from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, about 140 miles north of Tokyo. Residents whose homes weren’t damaged have been asked to stay inside.

Rachael’s base mobilized three ships to help with relief efforts, Slone said.

Now on maternity leave, Rachael Slone hasn’t been on base or left her home much to see how much damage is in her area since the quake. The living conditions are daunting with a new baby, but because Rachael specializes in security, Don Slone said he was confident Rachel had the right mindset to handle the situation.

“She’s a pretty strong girl; I’m pretty proud of her,” Slone said. “… She was going to venture out a little bit today; she’s real cautious with her new little baby.”

John Walker, Bonner Springs, also has been anxiously watching news from Japan. He lived in Osaka and Kobe from 1968 to 1982 before moving to Bonner and becoming the pastor at First Christian Church. He and his wife renewed many friendships in Japan on a trip there in 2000, and the friends they have contacted so far were not heavily affected by the disasters.

Walker said he remembered attending conferences in Sendai, a town in northeast Japan that was heavily affected by the tsunami.

“Having been there, to see that all gone; the beauty of that place is just pretty much gone right now,” he said.

He said he had been impressed by the Japanese peoples’ response to the disaster, how orderly and caring for each other they had been.

“That’s been amazing to the whole world — there’s been no looting, no rioting,” he said.

Walker will continue to keep abreast of the situation through his son, who is getting married this week and still plans to honeymoon in Japan, where he had worked as a teacher in the past.

Walker said his son had already told friends there he would help if a group of volunteers went to the areas most damaged.

Here in Bonner Springs, Walker said it was important to keep the aide workers in thoughts and prayers.

“The big thing in a time like this is to contribute, and the Red Cross is one organization that I would say is most trustworthy,” he said.

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